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Is bread healthy?

Bread has been a lunchbox favorite for as long as most people can remember. It’s easy to prepare a sandwich and has been the main feature in children’s school lunches for decades. Regardless of this being a favorite, bread has received a bad name over the years and I believe this is due to high-protein/ low carb and gluten free diët trends. So many question if bread is healthy? 

Bread has been part of our staple diets for a long time. Bread contains essential building blocks for our bodies and unless you have a medical condition such as Celiac Disease, wheat allergies or a gluten sensitivity, you shouldn’t  have to avoid bread and can make it a part of your daily diet. 

If you are worried about eating healthier and easier to digest bread options, you can start baking your own rather than packaged bread that often contains preservatives and additives that you may not even be aware of and which do not make bread healthy.

Packaged Bread is Full of Preservatives. 

Is bread healthy with these preservatives in? Once you realize how much is added to bread dough to decrease baking time or extend shelf-life, you might want to start cutting out the amount of bread you consume. It’s a scary idea that bread might contain “potassium bromate” which is perfectly “legal” and “safe” to use as per the United States Food and Drug Administration but banned in other countries for obvious reasons.

Below is a short list of possible preservatives and additives you could find in packaged breads:

Potassium Bromate: This is added to bread to strengthen and enhance dough elasticity.

Potassium Bromate is a lung irritant and  prolonged use can cause a cough, phlegm or shortness of breath. It can also affect your nervous system and cause headaches, irritability and impaired thinking. Potassium Bromate is also suspected to be a carcinogen in humans as it has shown in animal studies to have caused kidney, thyroid and gastrointestinal cancers in animals. 

Vegetable Fat – Palm Fruit: Added to give a creamy taste and texture to baked goods.

This is high in saturated fat which is linked to heart disease. Saturated fats are known to raise your cholesterol and triglycerides. Both of these put you at risk for heart disease.

Emulsifiers: These are added to reduce staling in bread, which basically means, it prevents it from going stale and hard.

Emulsifiers are known to increase the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis or aggravate the symptoms of these diseases. Emulsifiers are also a big culprit in obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes as well as cardiovascular and liver diseases.

Azodicarbonamide (ADA): This is a whitening agent and dough conditioner in the making of bread.

There have been studies and case reports in humans linking Azodicarbonamide (ADA) to asthma and other respiratory issues as well as causing sensitive skin in people who work with this product. Last but not least, Azodicarbonamide (ADA) can also be found in Yoga Mats and rubber shoes. It’s widely used in the production of certain types of plastic. Is bread healthy? Are you alarmed yet?

Consider Baking your Own Bread to Avoid these Preservatives.

Considering the benefits of bread to your body, you might want to start baking fresh bread to eliminate all the unwanted additives and preservatives. Once you realize how easy it is to bake bread as well as all the health benefits, you might never go back to buying. 

It is rather therapeutic kneading dough, watching it rise, punching it down, kneading it again, then watching it rise again to double or triple its volume. It’s exciting getting the technique right and having the aroma of fresh bread filling your nostrils and sifting through the kitchen and filter through the house. In my household, there is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread to herd family members to the kitchen.

The smell of fresh bread evokes memories of days when bread was freshly baked or purchased freshly baked every day when we were little, carefree and the best thing to eat was a slice of warm bread with butter and our biggest concern was, who gets the crust? It is an amazing and satisfying feeling when you stand with a pan of fresh bread in your mittened hands, knowing you made THIS, from scratch.

Carbohydrates Are Not Bad for You.

Carbohydrates fuel your body and your brain. Bread is a good source of Carbohydrates and provides steady energy for your body throughout the day. Whole grains take longer to digest. It makes you feel sustained a lot longer throughout the day and provides a good, steady source of energy so you may want to consider eating breads containing whole grains. Try adding other sources of Carbohydrates in your daily diet such as fruits, vegetables and legumes as all of these contain nutrients you need for a healthy well balanced diet. 

Bread the Weight Gain Myth. 

As with anything in life, the key to a good habit is “moderation”. Of course you will gain weight if you eat an entire loaf of bread everyday, however bread in conjunction with a well balanced diet should not cause weight gain. In fact, bread contains fiber which makes your tummy feel happy for longer, the higher the fiber content, the longer you feel sustained and your body gets a slow and steady energy source throughout the day which helps you not have cravings and grab unhealthy snacks.  

Bread is rich in fiber and fiber is good for your digestive system, gut health and regular bowel movements. Whole grain options are higher in fiber content and can be used in a balanced diët to stay regular, it’s also a source of B-Vitamins, Calcium, Iron and Folate. Bread also contains Protein which helps our tummies feel fuller for longer and it’s also a vital building block for our bodies. 

Bread the Blank Canvas. 

Bread is so versatile and easily paired with near anything. Consider bread, sliced, toasted or torn apart as a blank canvas. We pair it with soups, salads, seafood and have it on the breakfast table with preserves, cheese, eggs and bacon. It’s been re-engineered into soup bowls, bowls for meat dishes, fancy little cocktail sandwiches, even sandwiches on sticks. It’s truly an amazing item to add to your menu.

We use breadcrumbs as food coatings, make puddings out of sliced bread, french toast, normal toast, toast with holes in it, croutons, canapes, light snacks, heavy meals. They come in different forms and shapes and every culture over the globe has their own unique adaptation of bread.

To show you how versatile bread can be, I compiled a list of things you can make.

What to make with Bread?

Sandwiches: Simple sandwiches with peanut butter to monster sandwiches with everything on top and then some (lettuce, tomato, pickles, cold meat cuts, condiments, avocado, eggs, bacon, cheese and so much more).

Croutons: Baked crispy bread cubes that can be added to soups and salads.

Bread crumbs: Used to coat chicken, beef, pork, fish, mushrooms, vegetables and whatever else you can think of that can be deep fried in a crumb coating and  paired with condiments like Tartar Sauce, Ketchup, Mustard.

Toast: Have this with breakfast, lunch or dinner, add eggs, bacon, cheese, tomato, fried banana, jams and other preserves. We often have breakfast for dinner as we don’t have time in the morning to prepare amazing breakfasts.

Bread Pudding and bread salads: Yes, these exist.

French Toast muffins: I thought it was a very unique idea when I invented these with leftover bread slices, but it wasn’t a very unique idea at all. It’s still a very easy breakfast snack to prepare and you don’t need much more than a little bit of milk, leftover bread slices torn into little chunks, egg, sugar and cinnamon. My kids love these and are always saving crusts and odd slices so I can make this for them.

As you can see, bread is very versatile and the only limitation is your imagination. I did not think that I would ever be writing about my journey to baking bread, yet here I am, doing just that. Baking bread does not have to be intimidating and as someone who has never kneaded dough or baked bread until a few months ago when I started my home baked bread journey, I guarantee you, it’s not as difficult as you might think.

Bake Your Own Bread.

It’s easy and you don’t need a lot of ingredients to bake a basic loaf of bread. All you need in the cupboard is bread flour (all purpose or cake flour will also do), instant yeast, a little bit of sugar, a little bit of salt and lukewarm water, a mixing bowl, a fork and your hands. Tada! You now have all the ingredients you need to bake a simple bread. (You can find a simple bread recipe here).

Even the act of baking bread is extremely versatile as you can bake bread in the oven or you can steam it in a pot, you can add it on top of stews and curries while cooking and serve it as a dish. It all depends on what kind of bread you would like to bake today. It’s not something that needs to be planned days ahead of time.

You can simply mix the dough in the morning, let it rise and bake it in the afternoon (Or start the dough in the evening, let it rise until the morning and bake it early enough to have breakfast and lunch. It lasts up to two days and if your household is anything like mine, two days is all you need for it to be eaten from crust to crust.

If you want to impress friends and family, you can make a bread wheel that pulls apart into little buns with different toppings like sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, cheese. This is only slightly more complicated than the simple bread recipe I provided, which is not complicated at all. (You can find the recipe here).

Once you realize how many things use bread as a base recipe you will be surprised and inspired at the same time. Sweet breads can be turned into rusks ready for dunking in your coffee or tea, old bread can be turned into crumbs, croutons and other sweet treats. 

Bread is an unsung hero and considering all the above points and ideas, how can bread really have the bad wrap it has gotten over the years?